Bulls FC Academy booked their place in the National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s Grand Final with a 2-1 victory over the newly crowned Premiers APIA Leichhardt on Wednesday night.
In an intense game, the fourth placed Bulls overcame APIA in an intense match up, the home side falling at the same stage for the second consecutive year with another late goal.
Charlotte Lancaster opened the scoring for the Bulls just before half time.
League top scorer Ash Crofts then equalised with 10 minutes remaining, before Lancaster won it late from the spot.
Jaime Gomez’s side pushed hard from the beginning and tried to put APIA under pressure from the kick off.
Their first chance came inside the first 10 minutes as the home side failed to clear a corner, the ball falling into the path of Avaani Prakash who side footed her effort over the crossbar.
With both Sophie Magus and Morgan Aquino unavailable, youngster Emilija Vidakovic stepped up in goals and was soon called into action, making an excellent finger tip save from an Isabella Volkanovski pile-driver.
The APIA attack was too cut off from midfield with Rhianna Pollicina missing and the likes of Ash Crofts and Bella Habuda could not get involved.
It would be the visitors that would go close again next, Tamires Souza breaking into the box, rounded Vidakovic before Claudia Cicco cleared the effort off the line.
As the game approached half time, the Bulls scored a well-deserved goal.
Daisy Cheeseman found space on the left, delivering a fine ball into the box to find Lancaster who held off two defenders, turned in the area and buried the ball with a powerful effort into the bottom corner.
The second half saw two tiring teams with APIA improving somewhat.
Spencer Prior’s tactical change pushing Claudia Cicco higher to the right wing almost led to immediate success, her dangerous ball in the area only just cleared.
APIA went down the same flank again, this time finding the equaliser in the 77th minute.
Cicco’s delivery to the edge of the area found an on coming Ash Crofts who let fly with a first time volley, burying it beyond Trudy Simmons in the Bulls goal.
The game opened up from here with both teams pushing forward to try and steal the win and book a grand final ticket.
The best chance in that period fell the way of the Bulls who reacted well, some fine combination play between Amy Chessari, Cheeseman and Prakash had the latter popping up in front of Vidakovic, only for Tanya Borazio to make a phenomenal last ditch challenge.
With the match destined for extra time, Souza went down in the box following a challenge from the APIA keeper, the referee with no choice but to point to the spot.
Lancaster stepped up and once more found the bottom corner to secure her brace and the lead for the Bulls.
APIA pushed hard for another equaliser but the Bulls managed the match expertly and secured their place in the big dance next week where they face the winner of the Macarthur Rams and NWS Spirit match.
APIA Leichhardt 1 (Crofts 77’)
Bulls FC Academy 2 (Lancaster 42’, 88’)
Wednesday, 6, September, 2023
APIA Leichhardt: 40. Vidakovic, 2. Cicco, 3. Borazio (22. Jasnos), 4. Prior, 7. Habuda (14. Coco-Di Sipio, 11. Crofts, 15. Pipino (17. Bozanic), 16. Fragale (21. Kiparizov), 18. Hoban, 24. Young, 32. Daczko.
Substitutes Not Used: 99. Halpin.
Bulls FC Academy: 1. Simmons, 3. Grey, 4. Seaman, 5. Lancaster, 7. Prakash, 9. Chessari, 10. Souza (8. Rutstein), 11. Valletta, 13. Di Sciascio, 17. Volkanovski, 19. Cheeseman.
Substitutes Not Used: 12. Corry, 18. Clout, 21. Segavcic, 22. Popovic.
By Nikola Pozder